Ed Sheeran was pretty definitively the sound of the summer back in 2017, it was basically an impossible task to make it through the week without it cropping up once or twice, and you know what that means; a lawsuit. It’s becoming more and more common these days, a song is released, makes it big in the charts, makes a load of money, and ends up being taken to court by another artist that thinks they’ve been done over. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams famously lost $5Million to the estate of Marvin Gaye because “Blurred Lines” stole ‘the feel’ Marvin Gaye’s seminal classic “Got To Give It Up”. Anyway, Sheeran is one of the fortunate cases (from the perspective of the defendant at least) where the court ruled against a copyright infringement, listen for yourself below.
Sheeran took to his socials after the victory, summarizing, “where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim.” Adding, “It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry. There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes that are available.” At the ruling, Judge Antony Zacaroli completed proceedings by saying, “similarities between the one-bar phrase [share] such similarities are only a starting point for a possible infringement”, concluding, “differences between the relevant parts [of the songs, which] provide compelling evidence that the ‘Oh I’ phrase.”.
This result comes with a great sigh of relief for Sheeran, who back in 2017 took the particularly unusual step of counter-suing Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghu in an attempt to clear himself of any charges. This ultimately failed.
On the subject of copyright lawsuits, pop sensation Dua Lipa was being sued by Florida reggae band Artikal Sound System; the group claimed that in reference to their own track “Live Your Life”, it was “highly unlikely that ‘Levitating’ was created independently.”. The case is still in process, and I don’t have enough background to comment, but in a conversation with Rolling Stone, Musicologist Joe Bennett weighed in on the situation. While the melodies may be similar, copyright infringement is about confluence – and according to Bennett “In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I think this is a coincidence.”